Though Spain is reckoned one of the clear favorites to win FIBA EuroBasket 2009, the team is rapidly becoming a shadow of its ideal self, as Unicaja swingman Berni Rodriguez will be sitting out the tournament alongside Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon. Team Spain official stated the ankle injury suffered by Rodriguez during last season’s ACB playoffs has not yet healed properly.
Team Spain reportedly seeks to substitute Antonio Bueno (Estudiantes), Sergio Llull (Real Madrid), or Carlos Suarez (DKB Joventut) at the roster spot they’d earmarked for Rodriguez, but surely the loss of both he and Calderon represents a tremendous comedown for a formerly notably strong backcourt.
(FIBA) – Spain have suffered a major blow ahead of EuroBasket 2009 as Unicaja Malaga guard Berni Rodriguez has been forced to withdraw from the squad with an ankle injury.
The 29-year-old first suffered the injury playing for Unicaja against Regal FC Barcelona in the ACB semi-finals in June, but was expected to heal in time for EuroBasket, which is in Poland in September.
Instead, Spanish Basketball Federation doctors on Tuesday confirmed the ankle has still not recovered and Rodriguez will not be ready for the tournament.
“It is a shame because I had a great dream to go and help the national team at the EuroBasket in Poland,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s fair for me to acknowledge that the injury cannot fully recover and it is best for me and the team for someone who is fit to go in my place.
“This decision is very painful, but I think it is best not to force it and risk further damaging the ankle. Now my only role is for me to support my teammates with all my strength as a fan and hope for the best possible EuroBasket.”
Rodriguez has been a key component in Spain’s recent success, winning gold with them at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, silver at EuroBasket 2007, and silver at the 2008 Olympics.
His absence will hand coach Sergio Scariolo a significant headache as he seeks to find a replacement.
“On a personal level, it is a tough story, because Berni brings not only his qualities as a player but he is also a big part of us being a cohesive group, perhaps more than any other player,” Scariolo said.
“And collectively, as we have said when we have lost other players, Berni brings a lot of defensive qualities which are absolutely crucial and we will now have to find in other players.”
Spain have invited DKV Joventut’s Carlos Suarez and Estudiantes’ Antonio Bueno to train with the squad, in addition to Real Madrid’s Sergio Llull, and it seems likely that one of those trio could be called upon to replace Rodriguez.
Spain had already lost Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon to a hand injury.
Spain have been drawn against Serbia, Great Britain and Slovenia in Group C at EuroBasket.